Monday, December 27, 2004

SURVIVING THE TSUNAMI - Part 4 - Pulling out bodies

I woke really early this morning.

I knew that today was going to be a long day. And even though I was still tired - I didn't want to sleep. I knew right away that things were not normal - as I was in a room with other sleeping people.

By the time I got up at 8:00 am - many of the people sleeping in the road and at the pool area had gone. In the night - the government had sent convoys up the hill to pick up people and take them hotels further inland.

The hotel had access to one small generator - and....

(Quick interruption...Next to me - here in this internet shop - is an American chap - who has been working in Phuket. He is talking on the phone to a friend - and telling them that he is ok. He was on the beach when the wave hit - working in a dive shop. Today - the dive shop is no more - complete wiped out. And he is telling of the supermarket that was located below him. It was a basement supermarket - and had opened at 9:00 in the morning. People were shopping when the tsunami hit. Just before I came here to this cafe - I was with others
outside of the market as rescue teams began to drain the basement
shop out. It was filled with water - and of course - every item in the market was floating around. As we stood there - about every 15-20 minutes - they would pull another body out of the floating water. I left after the second one. I suspect I will have nightmares of this for awhile).

As I was saying- the hotel had access to a generator - and had plugged in a coffee maker. It tasted so great.

We finally decided to walk down the hill, where I have been for the last 6 hours. I have just walked around - looking at the horrific damage.

Cars are stacked on top of each others. Motorcycles are jammed on top of trees - and are hanging off balconies. For a land sight of nearly two miles - and about 4-5 blocks inland, there is complete destruction of everything below 12 feet. Shops are wiped out. There is sludge and stuff everyone.

People were numb in the morning. But then little by little, people started to untangle the mess and pull things out.

In the middle of the afternoon - I was sitting in the restaurant – having ordered my first real plate of food in a day and a half. One restaurant had reopened - and said they had one item on the menu they could fix. As I was sipping on a warm beer that had been added to some ice - we heard shrieks - and people started running. "The Water is coming again" they shouted. Everyone ran in a panic. I headed toward the water - to see myself. The ocean was calm. Peaceful. Police tried to tell us to get away. That another tsunami was coming. But even they
looked skeptical.

I suspect this will come for many days - as people live in the fear of another one coming back. Like superstitious - or a ghost that won't stop haunting - it will spook for many weeks to come.

Yesterday - I was mostly numb. The thing that kept me sane and that of others was when my friends were sending me SMS to tell me what the news was saying. That kept me connected - and gave us a little sense of peace.

My thanks again to Tiffany, Peter, Jason and Simon who kept me up to date with those messages.

There are so many stories out there of "where people were when..."

Last night - we came across a man and his two little boys. Along with their mom - they were on the beach when it hit. They can't find the mom.

A woman sat near me yesterday - alone - having not been able to find her husband and her downes syndrome son. Later they found the father - but are still looking for the son.

Over in Phi Phi Island (a yet smaller island away from Phuket) - hundreds of people drowned. Many locals had relatives there. And they have not heard from them.

And the stories go on - but I am exhausted from telling it.

And anxious.

Thousands of people are waiting at the airport to leave. I think will be on a plane tomorrow morning to go back to Singapore.

So much for a peaceful vacation.

I remember back when 911 happened. I was in China - and felt so far away from the people I loved. But I also felt so far away from 911.

Since then, like many people, we have all wondered, when will the next terrorist activity be? I have expected that sooner or later – something bad would happen. It is nature.

But I never dreamed it would be here. I never dreamed that I would be in the middle of it all. And I never dreamed I would be in a tsunami.

But I am safe. Much better than so many people who were affected. And so much better than the 10,000 families who have experienced the loss over the last 36 hours of having lost someone.

I send my love to each of you. I will try to write more later.



At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, he was in shocck, if you hadn't noticed by now! The human mind deals with a major shock in a multitude of ways. Did you expect him to climb a rock, and shout to everyone " Ok, now you get into groups, one for digging trenches, another for helping gather corpses, and another to sort out the tangles of metal and everything else." I mean, he isn't a GOD! He did as much as he could under his own circumstances. Also if he had not written and chronicled his experiencese, we would not have this excellent group of articles. What a nasty boogery person you must be. Get a life, and learn to shut up when you need it most, like permanently. Ass.

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Kid12Gal said...

I am a 12 year old girl doing an assesment/test on the tsunami in 2004. I have to imagin what it would look like the day after and write it like a report. I have a vivid imagination, but this time I can't imagine what it was like for the people out there at the time of the tsunami.

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Hayley ward said...

Having recently been to Thailand, and more importantly Khao Lak, it is seriously unimaginable to think of what everyone went through that day.
It may be nearly 10 years later, but you can see the pain and horror is still so raw for many. There are places that will never be lived in again, just left in ruins and others still struggling to rebuild after so long.
When you visit the fishing village, where the tsunami first hit, not far from where the orchid resort is, you get a sense of overwhelming airiness, and a feeling of invading a village still coming to terms with this.
For those who spoke up and shared their stories, I commend you on having the balls to do so, I can only think of how hard it is to relive those moments.
Thoughts go to anyone who was touched mpby this disaster as the 10 year memorial will soon come around.

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Jaak Bezuidenhout said...

I worked in a Dive Centre on phi-phi island for a while in 2008. There was definitely still a vibe of sadness. Locals would laugh but when the laughing stopped their faces turned sad as though they're feeling guilty for being happy (my thoughts). Anot her instructor in the dive centre was there the day the wave came. He also had the sad look. We wouldn't ask him about the tsunami. Never. As for the island itself...they rebuilt pretty fast to get the tourists back. To be fare it was 4 years later but they made the island look like nothing ever happened in most places. I can vaguely remember seeing some debris on the far side of the island. The reefs also took a big knock with the tsunami. There was definite damage on the reefs around the smaller islands of phi-phi (koh bida Nai). I was also in Phuket for a couple of days, on this same beach. I did not see anything out of the ordinary (that I could remember). It was long ago and I was young. Thinking back I should have paid more attention. Any case, that's my little story.


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